The Story of Pa I Sha

36 3Arts supporters
$7,100 raised of $6,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on August 27, 2023
    • 118% contributed

The Story of Pa I Sha is a musical work I am composing based on the stories from my Chickasaw heritage beginning with my great-great-great-grandmother, Pa I Sha. With members of my ensemble, the Bach & Beethoven Experience, I plan to perform this work in Chicago during November 2023 as part of Native American Heritage month and in partnership with the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.

About This Project

As a member of the Chickasaw Nation, I grew up looking at Pa I Sha’s portrait, which hung in our living room. Every time I gazed at her, I saw a woman of immense strength who carried the Chickasaw reputation of “unconquered and unconquerable." This musical work is inspired by her and will highlight three major stories in my Chickasaw heritage.

The first story is about Pa I Sha herself, who was full-blood Chickasaw and walked the Trail of Tears in 1837 from her home in Mississippi to her new nation in Oklahoma as part of the Indian Removal Act. In Oklahoma, she married her husband, another full-blood Chickasaw, who also walked the Trail of Tears. The second story is about Pa I Sha’s daughter, Mary Sheco, who was also full-blood Chickasaw, but married an Englishman. Because interracial marriages with the tribe were taboo at the time, they were forced to live in a railroad tent outside of town with their nine children. Their children and grandchildren were discriminated against to the point that some did not declare their degree of Indian blood, or in some cases, dropped their indigenous identity altogether. Her grandson, Earnest Thaxton, is the last relative I have on the Dawes Census Cards from Indian Territory. He was born in Indian territory before Oklahoma became a state in 1906. His family was required to register, but none of his full-blood relatives claimed they were full-blood for fear of the prejudice against them by the government. The third story is about how my great grandfather Earnest Thaxton met my great grandmother, Sarah Tannehill. She had come to Texas from Illinois on a train at 12 years old around Christmastime. Her parents had told her that there would be no presents this year, but that they would still celebrate Jesus' birth. When they arrived, her family was invited to dinner by the people of the town and were given presents after all. The girls were given corn husk dolls and the boys were given whittled animals that were made for them. After Earnest moved to the Texas panhandle, he met and married Sarah, who gave birth to my maternal grandfather.

In partnership with members of my ensemble, the Bach & Beethoven Experience (BBE), and with the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, we will perform this work twice in November 2023 as part of Native American Heritage month. The instrumentation of this work will include a narrator, flute, Native American flute, violin, viola, cello, and percussion. The narration will be mostly in English, but will include some Chickasaw language in telling these stories. Using melodies from the Chickasaw Nation, this work will feature three distinct sections that will illuminate these three major stories.  I hope that these stories will give voice to not just Chickasaw people, but to the collective Native American voice and community as a whole, since other Native Americans have had similar experiences to what happened in my family.  Contributing to this project is a unique opportunity for people to support that voice even if they are not Native American themselves.  

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    Shout out on website and social media channels ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Invitation to a dress rehearsal (virtual or live), plus above ($35.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    2 tickets to the concert with VIP seating, plus all of the above ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    A recording of the live performance, plus all of the above ($175.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    An autographed copy of the narration with front page of the score, plus all of the above ($400.00 is tax deductible.)

Brandi Berry Benson

Gertrude E. Grisham Awardee

Violinist and 3Arts awardee Brandi Berry Benson, whose "four-string acrobatics" and "indispensable skill" (TimeOut Chicago) have been praised as "alert [and] outstanding" (Chicago Classical Review), as her "riffs.. powered by a flashing blur of bow arm, …

View Brandi Berry Benson's profile
  • Update 1: 1st day off to a great start!
    Posted on July 14, 2023


    The campaign is off to a great start! Thank you George & Linda, Alan, Stanley, and Nell for your generous contributions!!

    Update 2: Thank you!!
    Posted on July 24, 2023


    Thank you to everyone who has donated so far and a shout out to Idalynn, Terry, Amy, and Linda for their generous contributions!!

    Update 3: We hit our match!!
    Posted on July 27, 2023


    Thrilled to share that we've been matched by 3Arts!! Thank you to all the supporters and more recent donations by my grandma Gloria Berry, and longtime friends of the BBE Joe and Cheryl Muszynski! We've got less than a 1/3 of our goal to go and we're only 2 weeks in!

    Update 4: We're in the home stretch!
    Posted on August 09, 2023


    Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far!! Shout outs to Lenora McCroskey, Gail Gillespie, and Douglas Stapleton for their recent contributions!! We are in the home stretch!

    Update 5: We've hit our goal!!
    Posted on August 20, 2023


    Thank you so much to everyone who's contributed to The Story of Pa I Sha!!! I'm excited that we have hit our goal! Shout outs to Laury Libin, Carol Byrd, Karen Owen, Heidi Joosten, Sarah Marty, Kangwon Kim, Allison Alcorn, and many others who have helped us reach our goal!! Thank you thank you!!

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • George & Linda Thaxton

    • Stanley Ritchie

    • Alan Muirhead

    • Nell Snaidas

    • Ray Benson

    • Mark Cudek

    • Idalynn Besser

    • Terrence Miles

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Amy Funk

    • Linda Rosencranz

    • Gloria Berry

    • Cheryl Muszynski

    • Mary Penzien

    • Joanne Passet & Deborah Wehman

    • Stephen Kohn

    • Casandra Kohn

    • Curtis Foster

    • Ann Chen

    • douglas stapleton

    • susan rozendaal

    • Gail Gillispie

    • Lenora McCroskey

    • Kangwon Kim

    • Sarah Marty

    • Martha Perry

    • Heidi Joosten

    • Karen Owen

    • Carol Byrd

    • Laurence Libin

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Liza Malamut


    • Thomas Lipsmeyer

    • Catherine Berry

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 Additional support provided by: 

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